By Irina Hovannisian
A man from a village in southern Armenia died after burning himself near the main government building in Yerevan under uncertain circumstances on Tuesday.
Eyewitnesses said the man, identified as Jivan Hakobian, poured petrol all over his body and set himself ablaze before being rushed to a hospital early in the afternoon. A senior doctor there told RFE/RL that he died of severe injuries about eight hours later.
The doctor, Hovannes Aslanian, said earlier in the day that Hakobian’s chances of survival are slim. “His condition is extremely grave and, I would say, incompatible with life,” he said. “Eighty percent of his body surface is covered by deep burns. On top of that, he has respiratory burns.”
Hakobian was said to have chanted anti-government slogans moments before the self-immolation. “Some people tried to put out the fire, but he got totally burned,” said one witness.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the 44-year-old father of four to take the extreme and desperate action. His wife and other relatives declined a comment as they arrived at the Yerevan clinic specializing in treatment of burns.
Hakobian and his family reside in the village of Dalarik in the southern Armavir region. He reportedly worked in Russia for several years before returning to Armenia recently.
The Dalarik mayor, Pargev Saghatelian, said Hakobian has never approached him with any complaints or grievances. “He never lodged any complaints,” Saghatelian told RFE/RL. “He just said once that he wants to borrow a loan.”
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s office, meanwhile, revealed that it received a letter from Hakobian on February 20 demanding that the government grant him a 10-year interest-free loan in compensation for his bank savings that had been wiped out by the hyperinflation of the early 1990s. According to a government spokeswoman, he complained that his similar letters to President Robert Kocharian and the National Assembly remained unanswered.
The official said Hakobian also asked the government to help him get an audience with business tycoon Gagik Tsarukian or opposition leader Stepan Demirchian. He was informed by phone that the government can not deal with such matters, she added.
This is the second case of public self-immolation registered in Armenia in less than three months. An elderly woman and her three grandsons set themselves on fire outside Kocharian’s official residence in early December, in protest against an alleged cover-up of the killing of a family member. All of them stayed alive after hospitalization.
(Photolur photo: Ambulance doctors provide first medical assistance to Hakobian.)